South reopening for fall semester amid COVID-19 concerns

By: Hayden Cordova | Managing Editor

With the spread of COVID-19 cases across the nation forcing colleges to rapidly transition to online education for the spring and summer semesters, the question remains as to how campuses will return to the status quo come fall semester, and what steps South will be taking to reach that goal. On May 1, South Alabama issued a press release that addressed the university’s intentions of reopening the primary campus for in-person classes and residential living in the fall semester.  

South’s direction for reopening follows a trend across universities nationwide. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, out of over 600 colleges a 68% majority plan to reopen for classes and residence in the fall, with 10% considering multiple options, 7% proposing hybrid models of learning, 6% sustaining online education throughout the semester, and the remaining 10% still undecided.  

According to AL.com, South’s plans coincide with nine other universities within the state of Alabama, including Auburn, Troy, and Alabama..

Waldrop discussed the university’s primary goals in reopening moving forward.

“The most important step in reopening is to ensure that we can conduct classes and activities in a safe manner,” Waldrop stated.  “There is always the possibility that the evolving health risks or other circumstances associated with COVID-19 may require that we change our plans, but we are laying the groundwork for reopening.  We cannot immediately go back to how we operated before the pandemic, so we’ll work to determine reasonable and responsible guidelines for moving forward.” 

The American College Health Association released their Considerations for Reopening Institutions of Higher Education in the COVID-19 Era, a set of guidelines suggesting what requirements should be met for campuses to open safely.  According to the guidelines, the key requirements that should be met by universities is that “campus leadership should retain or develop an incident command structure, an effective surveillance system, and partnerships with local public health and health care organizations.”

While details remain tentative as to what measures South will be taking, Waldrop’s message states that the university has assembled a task-force of nine subcommittees that will assess the logistics of reopening and create safety guidelines to accommodate whatever challenges may arise. 

The committees will evaluate multiple areas of campus life, from health and safety, academics, athletics, and finance, and expect to start making decisions within the following weeks.  Although changes to the COVID-19 crisis will affect these measures, South’s attempts to reopen remains a cautiously optimistic one as updates continue throughout the coming months.